REVIEW: Nifty and ageless, ‘Dazed and Confused’ remains utterly groovy

With the school year coming to a close, high schoolers everywhere are already bouncing off their chairs, impatiently awaiting that glorious summer break. Seniors especially, considering how rigorous this year has turned out to be. The pandemic took away a lot of tradition for seniors across the country, seemingly taking away from their “high school experience.” But that does not mean all hope for a good time is lost. Dazed and Confused explores a true portrayal of teenagers in America — the good, the bad, even the in-between. Nostalgia has never tasted so bittersweet.

Directed by Richard Linklater, Dazed and Confused has no night of summer filled with aimless driving, alcohol consumption, lust, fights, or simple hang outs. What these groups have in common, however, is their exchange of teenage truths. These truths are simply meant for the viewers’ own reflections and reminiscences of their own high school days and not meant to be taken too seriously. That’s what keeps the reality of this film alive.

Released in theaters in 1993, the film boasts some of the trends within the film that are not as popular today as they were back then, including anything from smoking cigarettes to even sex education. That being said, these differences do not hinder how Dazed and Confused remains an incredibly timeless film. The purpose of the movie isn’t so teenagers can relate to the actions taking place — it’s meant to serve as a nostalgic artifact to allow anyone at any point in time to look back at their own years in high school and their journey into adulthood. The lack of direct plot excels at illustrating this purpose, ensuring everyone would be able to relate to the film in some fashion or another. 

Without a broader, comprehensive story to tell, it is up to the actors to depict their own character’s individual stories. Many used their own memories of their high school selves and incorporated that into who they were to portray. So much focus is put on these performers that it’s crucial they make their interpretations as realistic and as life-like as possible, and boy oh boy, they do not disappoint for a single moment.

Linklater takes pride in the way the actors portray their characters compared to the actual events. He wants the film to feel like a true rendition since our own favorite memories are most often formed by the people within the memory rather than what was happening. Dazed and Confused has it all: the jocks and the preps, the slackers and the nerds, the stoners and the debutantes. It doesn’t simply focus on a moment in history — it focuses on a moment in your own history, which is something poetically beautiful in itself.

While the actors certainly entrance you in this film — and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss performances by some of the most recognizable actors working in Hollywood today — the soundtrack is simply the extra push to making Dazed and Confused a standout performance. Classic rock may not be the type of music a majority of today’s generation can thoroughly appreciate, but it certainly is something that will nevertheless make you vibe along with the characters while it’s playing. Not to mention the moment when your parents hear the songs, they will scream along to the lyrics at the top of their lungs. 

Dazed and Confused is no mere period piece, never has been and never will be. It’s a concoction of realism and immortality, making this film so relatable, relivable, renewable. It’s a day-in-the-life for seniors everywhere, the ultimate showcase of teen spirit meant for any teen ever.

“Check ya later!”

Dazed and Confused is rated R.

Kaitlyn Riley is a pop culture critic for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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